Fluid spaces from roofs to courtyards

08 febbraio 2022

Spaces usually seen as private or semi-private, such as courtyards and rooftops, are becoming strategic for urban development © Eugene

We’ve just been through two difficult, complex years in which the pandemic and forced relational dynamics have faced us with new challenges, accelerating aspects of design that were already in progress for urban settings and spaces. We have approached the themes of the city of proximity (in the series of articles on Nearness), the reconfiguration of the home and of workspaces, and biophilia. Giorgio Donà, co-founder & director of Stefano Boeri Interiors, shared some thoughts about next urban design and common spaces.

Rather than emphasizing theories of the city on a human scale, Donà underlines the need for a city that delocalizes services all the way to the micro-scale of the apartment house, or on the basis of the needs of social clusters. He points to the importance of finding a new relationship between the public and private spheres, in which spaces usually seen as private or semi-private, such as courtyards and rooftops, become more public, in the sense of shared use. Regarding the interior design of the spaces of life, from home to work, he suggests working on the concept of furnishings: flexible, adaptable, transformable. With an eye on psychophysical wellbeing and “extroversion,” the physical and relational sharing between people and services.

Tree Room, Arte Sella, © Giacomo Bianchi, courtesy of Stefano Boeri Interiors

D     From the initial concept of the city of proximity (the 15-minute city) to the city of local services and capillary infrastructures. What is the difference?


R     The idea of a city within human reach should call the very paradigm of the modern city back into question, created to function around large epicenters and mono-functional works of architecture synchronized with the lives of people in the community. To be able to enhance and encourage increasingly soft, slow mobility, we have to start to imagine new forms of “decentralization,” to create areas, neighborhoods and works of architecture with sufficient autonomy and self-sufficiency of services and functions of general and collective interest. Forms of sharing and redistribution capable of having impact on the timing and rhythms of the city, constructing new forms of proximity and “walkability” that foster all the essential services that respond to real needs of the community.

Superverde, courtesy of Stefano Boeri Interiors

D     You also indicate a different relationship between the public and private spheres in the design of services.


R     Yes, it is important to build a new relationship between the public and private spheres, imagining new places and spaces of contact, new points of intersection. New in terms of meaning and utilization. For example, redesigning and boosting the potential of places ordinarily set aside for sharing, such as outdoor areas, courtyards, or even inhabitable rooftops. The “fifth façade,” namely the roof, can become a future public space for the inhabitants of that location, or a collective resource for the city as a whole.

Roofs can become a future public spaces © Chuttersnap

D    New habits and old spaces with new usage modes.


R     As designers, but also as users with specific needs and interests, we imagine the home of the future as a space of variable geometry, capable of accompanying and responding to constantly changing and evolving needs. Furnishings will play a crucial role to make space more flexible, adaptable and transformable. Work has to be done on the concept of the “system” as an opportunity that enables all people to construct their own scenario, with the ability to adapt to the future in a limited number of steps. An idea that was also expressed in our installation for the Supersalone, starting with two major reference points: Giò Ponti and Renato Pozzetto (…Taaac!).

[also read “Sustainability at the fair. Starting with the displays”].

Oasi, Aran Cucine, © Marco Menghi

D     What is the meaning of the wellbeing of living spaces?


R     As we reconfigure the spaces of both private and community life, from the residence to the workplace, we have to rethink the concept of “wellbeing” itself: air, climate and our surroundings in general have to facilitate achievement of the highest level of psychophysical wellness for people who inhabit a place, or make use of a service. Air quality, its control and maintenance, is an important issue in internal spaces today, more than in outdoor contexts. In this regard, it becomes crucial to find new forms of extroversion of private functions, providing spaces that become points of contact and proximity with the public sphere. Spaces that are capable, in a longer perspective, of welcoming different forms of living species.

[also read “Biophilia, a science for interior design”]

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